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The United States says it has information suggesting that Iran is working on technology to adapt its missiles to carry nuclear warheads. The allegations by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell come ahead of a key meeting next week of the UN's nuclear watchdog agency to discuss Iran's nuclear program. Iran denies that it is secretly trying to make nuclear weapons.
Prague, 18 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said intelligence indicates that Iran "had been actively working on delivery systems" capable of carrying a nuclear weapon.
His claims, made at an economic forum in Chile yesterday, came as an exiled Iranian opposition group alleged that Tehran is deceiving the United Nations by attempting to secretly pursue nuclear weapons.
Farid Suleimani, a senior official for the National Council for Resistance in Iran (NCRI), told reporters in Vienna yesterday that Abdul Qadeer Khan -- the so-called "father" of the Pakistani atomic bomb -- had provided Iran with a bomb design and an unspecified amount of weapons-grade uranium.
''A.Q. [Abdul Qadeer] Khan gave Iran a quantity of HEU [highly enriched uranium] in 2001, so they already have a quantity of HEU which they can use. He gave them the weapons design of the Chinese model that he gave to the Libyans, as well as more than that in terms of the weapons designs and technological programs," Suleimani said.
Speaking later in Santiago, Powell told reporters he has seen intelligence that would corroborate the dissident group's allegations, which he said, "should be of concern to all parties."
Powell added that there is no evidence that Iran has already developed the technology to build a nuclear weapon. But he suggested that Tehran is working to adapt missiles for nuclear warheads. He said he is "aware of information that suggests they were working hard as to how to put the two together."
On 9 November, Iranian Defense Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani said Iran has the capability of mass-producing the Shihab-3, a ballistic missile capable of hitting Israel.
Last week, Iran also announced suspension of its uranium enrichment. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN's nuclear watchdog, said it would monitor that commitment in advance of an IAEA board meeting on 25 November.
Uranium enrichment does not violate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed. But the IAEA and most of its members want Tehran to scrap enrichment plans as a confidence-building measure.
Iran says its sole interest is to generate nuclear fuel for energy through low-level uranium enrichment. But the United States suspects Iran seeks weapons-grade enriched uranium.
Suleimani of the dissident group alleges that Tehran is still pursuing uranium enrichment at a new site called the Center for the Development of Advanced Defense Technology. He said the site is in Lavizan, near where the United States suspects Iran conducted secret nuclear work before demolishing the complex.
''Once the information was revealed, they leveled the whole thing to the ground and, importantly, before they did that, they removed the equipment to the site near there which is the new CDAT [Center for Development of Advanced Defense Technology] site," Suleimani said.
Suleimani said the NCRI sent the IAEA a letter about the 60-acre top-secret site a few days ago.
Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hussein Musavian, today denied the allegations that Tehran is running a secret nuclear-bomb facility and called the NCRI "a well-known terrorist group."
The NCRI is the political wing of the Mujahedin Khalk, a group that has been declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. However, the group was instrumental in 2002 in revealing Iran's enrichment program in the central city of Natanz, based on what it said was information provided by sources in Iran.